Friday, 9 October 2020

Teamwork Training

I've mentioned before how I disliked all the management speak and management training we had to undergo when I worked in London.

For some reason, another episode came to mind the other day. I was clearing up some old clothes to give to charity and I found an old T shirt, still very clean and neatly pressed, and only worn once all those years ago.

For a few days we were taken to a team building away-day or two at some countryside place away from London. I forgot where it was. When we got to our hotel rooms we were told to give up our office suits and wear instead the T shirts they had given us. The shirts were in different colours: red, green, blue and yellow. Mine was green. It was obvious that some clever dick had divided us into different groups.

The T shirt bore the slogan "Unlock Your Potential".

What a stupid slogan, I thought. My potential was so unlocked that it fell out of every orifice in my body.

Who thinks up such stupid slogans and thinks that somehow, magically, it would make us better managers or leaders or whatever. I know it made me more of a rebel. I hated to partake in such stupidity and wear a T shirt for the next two days we were there. I was never informal in a business surrounding. Three-piece suit and a suitable sober tie. That's me.

But I changed into jeans and the T shirt to set an example to the rest of my team.

One of the exercises took place in a large field. There was a Jeep there and a lot of traffic cones in the field numbered from 1 to 12.

The idea was to teach us communications and listening skills. We were divided into groups of two. The idea was that the driver, (me in this case), would sit in the driving seat blindfolded. And my colleague sitting beside me would give me directions on where/how to drive without hitting any of the cones in the field. He was being assessed for his communications skills, and me in my listening skills. There was a moderator sitting in the Jeep behind us to ensure we did not cheat.

We had to drive through the course and unless we passed by a certain % mark we had to do it again and again until we got it right. You can imagine, with forty people in groups of two we'd be there all day driving over and again until we got it right. 

I was getting angry and not prepared for such prescribed stupidity.

The moderator started her stop-watch and asked us to go. What she did not know was that I could see a little through one eye in the blindfold. Neither did my colleague know of this.

I drove deliberately slowly, pretending to listen intently to my colleague who did not know his left from his right, (reminded me of my wife giving directions), and all the time I carefully avoided hitting any of the cones in the field.

We got top marks first time. The moderator was pleased. My colleague was elated at his communications skills. And I thought they were all a bunch of idiots.

Now some of you may think I am a cheat and a fraud. But I did not gain any financial reward by peeking through the blindfold. All we gained is that my colleague and I went to the pub much earlier than the rest of the people there. All 38 of them driving again and again until they scored the appropriate required %.

I remember on that away-weekend we had an elaborate end of course meal. They asked us to choose someone to give an after-dinner speech. No one volunteered except another senior manager and me. I knew he was a part-time after-dinner speaker. The sort of person one hires at functions to make a speech on a variety of subjects. He was well polished at his skill and I had heard him before. He was keen to give a long speech to show his skill to all and sundry and perhaps to bore us to death about leadership in the Roman Empire, or managerial skills through the ages, or some other insomnia busting topic that would make you wish you were dead.

The devil in me was keen to stop him from making such a speech. After a good meal and wine, the last thing you want is a long diatripe about management and business.

I suggested we draw lots. I took two pieces of chalk from the black board. A long piece and a small piece. I put one in each hand and told him the one with the short piece is the loser.

I put both hands behind my back and broke a small piece from the long chalk. I tucked the rest in the back of my trousers. I presented two hands each containing a small piece of chalk and asked him to choose.

He lost.

As I recall, I made a humourous speech about management and managerial skills and how not to do things.

Do you think I cheated? What is cheating anyway?

I believe I saved the rest of the people there from a long and boring speech which would have contributed to their indigestion or constipation.

I should have been given a medal!


  1. OMG! Those management classes. They were an opportunity for upper management to tick off the "Personal Betterment" box on their yearly goals and todo list. Pure crap!!

    It is only cheating if you gain at someone else's detriment. In this case you did all a favor. I vote you get a medal.

    BTW, this is one of your stories that I believe is completely true...well, at least 75% true.

    1. Sadly, JoeH; yes this story is mostly true. I hated those stupid managerial team events. I still have the T shirt; I did not give it to charity. I kept it as a souvenir of stupidity. The slogan was "Unlock Your Potential". I hated the exercises at that event. One involved working as a team using a canoe to paddle across a pond and fetch an item from an island in the middle. Most people were getting wet and dirty falling into the pond/lake. I refused to take part. I stood my ground and showed leadership at not following idiots into the water.

      And yes, I did cheat at making the final after dinner speech. It was a good speech as I remember.

      God bless, my friend.

  2. Dearest Victor,
    Oh, such an opportunity should be available more often to cut off any of those idiots that ONLY love to hear themselves speak.
    We all have been bored many times by such pretentious people...
    Our motto at the end of a day always is: 'What did we learn today?'

    1. That man did like the sound of his voice, Mariette. And his speech would have been intellectual, quoting many famous people, and sending everyone to sleep. I don't regret cheating to make the speech myself. I did not use notes. I just talked. Told jokes. And they laughed.

      God bless.

  3. Never enjoyed those type of management classes. We had camps for the weekend where we had to compete against others for the best results working with a partner. Your skills would be evaluated and depending on what you scored, you would get some kind of recognition prize. Stupid and dumb, IMO. Only went to the first one and never again.

    1. I agree, Bill. Stupid and dumb. Problem is, we had to attend or else. So I attended but my heart was not in it. And I refused to take part if the exercise I felt was too dangerous; like the lake exercise I mentioned to JoeH above.

      God bless.

  4. I never experienced anything like yours -- but yes, Big Corporations seem keen on these 'team-building' exercises. Wouldn't you love to know who, in the first place, sold folks on the merits(?) of this folly. Hopefully, they had the good sense to go into Witness Protection.

    1. Some of the ideas I heard of were really weird, Mevely.

      There was an exercise in some Companies for senior management where people were encouraged to be "totally open" with each other. You had a team of people in a room discussing a company problem and they were encouraged to hold nothing back. For example one would say to another, "no wonder you can't lead a team in your department, you don't even know what your wife does behind your back!"

      God bless, Mevely.

  5. You DO deserve a medal for that heroic exercise, Victor, saving the already exhausted crowd from a boring speech. As humorous as you are, I'm sure everyone there still recalls the speech you gave.

    1. Maybe it was rather dishonest of me, Martha; but I had heard this guy talk. He was a very nice man, but unfortunately he was very boring. Thinking back all these years, I now feel a little guilty at what I did.

      You know, I think God created boring people so that we may appreciate the normal ones more. What do you think?

      God bless.

  6. Lucky for me I never had to go to any of these.

  7. Victor, i think you helped everyone, and i really enjoy the word you invented for this piece, "diatripe." That's an excellent one!

    Hope you have a blessed and beautiful day.

    1. When I don't know what to say I always invent words.

      God bless you, Mimi.



God bless you.